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Northwestern University

Writing Proficiency

All students in Weinberg College are required to demonstrate writing proficiency before graduation. To demonstrate your proficiency, you must write satisfactorily in two courses at Northwestern.

Typically, these courses are first-year seminars. Students who do not complete the writing proficiency requirement through first-year seminars take other courses (listed below), or they sometimes choose to submit a writing portfolio instead.

Click on a link below to jump to details about the type of coursework you might complete to fulfill this requirement:

Entering Students

Most students complete the writing proficiency requirement through their first-year seminars. (HPME and MMSS students are required to take only one first-year seminar, and they have only a one-course writing requirement.) Students who do not complete both required seminars in the first year should discuss the situation with their adviser as soon as possible.

As part of their teaching responsibilities, first-year seminar instructors evaluate the writing of their students. These evaluations reflect the instructors' assessments of students' writing skills only and do not necessarily correspond to the grades students earn in the seminar courses. Evaluations are forwarded to the Writing Program. If you receive unsatisfactory evaluations in one or both courses, you will be contacted by the Writing Program, and you will meet with a Writing Program adviser to map out a plan for achieving and demonstrating writing proficiency. This plan may include taking an expository writing course (English 105, 205, or 305) or preparing a portfolio of writing produced in courses beyond the first-year seminars (see the section below on portfolios).

At the beginning of your sophomore year, if you are unsure about whether you have completed the writing requirement, you can check your electronic degree audit information on the Registrar's Office website. If you have any questions about the writing requirement you can contact the Writing Program, Crowe Hall 2-184, phone 847-491-7414 or check with a Weinberg College Adviser.

Interschool Transfer Students

If you transfer into Weinberg College as a first-year student, you are expected to take one or two seminars, depending on your date of transfer. ISTs who write successfully in two seminars will complete the writing requirement.

If you transfer into the College late in the first year and only take one seminar, or if you transfer in after the first year, you may fulfill the writing requirement in one of the following ways:

All interschool transfer students should plan to meet with their Weinberg College Adviser in their first quarter in Weinberg to develop a plan for meeting the requirement. 

Students transferring from another college or university

If you have transferred into Northwestern from another college or university, you have fulfilled the Weinberg writing proficiency requirement. If you have questions about how to improve your writing, you can contact an adviser in the Writing Program to talk about writing courses and writing resources available to you.

Portfolio Preparation and Submission

Students who do not complete the writing proficiency requirement through first-year seminars sometimes choose to submit a writing portfolio instead.

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